________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 4 . . . . October 10, 2008


The Ghost of Northumberland Strait.

Lori Knutson.
Toronto, ON: Napoleon, 2008.
146 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-894917-43-8.

Subject Headings:
Ghost stories.
Mothers and daughters - Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Carole Marion.

*** /4


Thirteen-year-old Charly (with a "shh") moves to Prince Edward Island with her mother and sister Nikki following her parents' divorce and discovers a weatherbeaten old house on Northumberland Straight. It's Mark's idea to break into the house; Nikki's boyfriend "wrecks things for the sake of wrecking things. And for the sake of impressing Nikki, of course." Charly (with a "shh") is not impressed at all.

Mark lets out a low whistle. "Check this." He points near the black and silver wood-burning stove with his free hand, the one not clutching Nikki's waist. "The rocking chair's right there - just like they say."

"Who says?" Nikki asks, looking around the room as if expecting something to leap out at her from the shadows.

"Everybody round here. That's who. You haven't heard the story of the O'Leary house?" Mark tells about it like it's world famous. Grammie told me the story, but Stupid's already launching into it, so I'll have to hear it again. Good story - when Crammie tells it.

"You like ghost stories?" she asked me, handing me a steaming mug of tea, sweet with sugar. We were at Grammie's kitchen table the Monday after we'd moved in there, and I'd just got back from school. It'd been a better day than I'd been having so far. Maybe Mom was right. Maybe things would get easier after I'd settled in a bit. Grammie had a deck of cards lying in the plastic tablecloth between us. She was going to teach me to play Queens.

"Sue. There are ghosts around here?" She'd got me curious.

"Are there ghosts?" Grammie sat down across from me. "Charly girl, you can't imagine!  There's stories up and down this Island about ghosts and goblins and about things folks just can't explain." She leaned toward me. "Strange things. Spooky things."

"I don't care so much about ghosts from other places, but what about from right here? In your town. You got ghosts right here?"

"Well, yes. Of course, there's ghosts from around here. I used to know one of them." She sipped her tea, watching me over the rim of her mug.


"Mmm-hmm. I used to be friends with a current ghost when she wasn't yet a ghost - before she died, that is."

"No way."

"Oh, yes way."

"How'd she die then?"

"Murdered. Thrown down a well. I sure did miss her after it happened." With that, Grammie gave a long sigh and started to deal. "Okay, dear, we each get eight cards. Your sister joining us, or is she going to stay up in her room?"


"What? What's the trouble?"

"You can't just tell me that you were friends with a ghost and then play cards! You're making it up anyway. You're just teasing."

"No. I'm certainly not." But I could tell she was trying not to smile. Grammie's nice, but she thinks she's funny. She stopped dealing. Three cards lay in front of me face down. "Want to hear the whole story? It takes awhile, and I can't tell it and play cards at the same time. I take both my cards and my storytelling too seriously to play and talk. So which will it be?"

From her first visit to the old O'Leary house, Charly feels an eerie presence and even hears "the couch springs sigh under someone's weight" when she sits for a rest. When she returns to investigate on her own, thinking that her imagination has gotten the best of her, she doesn't believe her eyes when the old house looks new underneath a clear sky that appears cloudy outside the dilapidated fence surrounding the property. Even more shocking is the invitation to tea from Katherine O'Leary - the same Katherine O'Leary who used to invite her Grammie for tea when she was the same age as Charly!

     Author Lori Knutson was fascinated with stories surrounding West Point and the Northumberland Straight when she visited P.E.I., and it is during one of these visits that The Ghost of Northumberland Straight took shape. As a school teacher, she draws on her experiences with children and the way they see the world to create inspiring stories for her readers. It is out of these experiences that her heroine, Charly (with a "shh") Pederson and the ghostly Katherine O'Leary were born. Humour and adventure blend into this entertaining story, and the reader will want to reach the end to find out how the a girl from the past helps a modern day teen accept herself and her circumstances.


Carole Marion is the Customer Service Manager of a Calgary Public Library branch. A former youth librarian, she has been working with children, parents and educators for over 20 years.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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